It’s been an interesting week, here at the homestead. Without getting into more detail than is appropriate on a public website, I spent a large chunk of the week really, really angry with my husband.
At some point in your married life, you are going to feel like you’ve been saddled with, at best, a complete idiot, or at worst, a malicious, self-centered sociopath. This is not really an indication that you actually are living with an idiot or sociopath (although I guess that’s always possible…) Generally speaking, it’s an indication that you are a somewhat screwed up (we religious types say “fallen” or “sinful”) person living with an equally screwed up person.
It has not been a fun week. We averted catastrophe by divine intervention once again, and while it’s always encouraging to see the Divine intervening on one’s behalf, it rarely happens under circumstances that are less than extremely stressful.
I have come to realize a few things over the course of this week, and figured since I have this nifty website, I would share:
- Men seem to come in two varieties: the rough, tough, John Wayne type who takes care of business but prying an “I love you” out of him takes a crowbar; and the sweet, fun, affectionate guy who appears to have all the adult life management skills of a nine year old.
- Women who are married to the John Wayne type generally feel like coworkers with their capable but not emotive spouses, and need some occasional hearts and flowers to avoid feeling like they got gypped in the marriage department.
- Women who are married to the Robin Williams type generally feel like the lone grown-up raising an additional kid, and at a certain point, his affection begins to feel a bit like the toddler’s: another demand for your already stretched attention.
I have a most excellent online friend, whom we shall call Nikki for purposes of privacy. Nikki was married to a John Wayne. She kept asking him to love her in the way she needed: affection. He kept loving her the way he liked to: paying bills, mowing lawns, and generally managing stuff. At a certain point, she was near to exploding with frustration, and she explained it to him like this: if I was dying of thirst, and asked you for water, and you gave me a hamburger, even if it was a great hamburger, what would happen?
Her husband, who was fairly quick on the uptake in general, said “You’d die.”
So Nikki’s response was “Stop giving me hamburgers.”
I don’t think anybody who knows my husband is unclear about which type of husband he is (hint: not the John Wayne one.) But even so, I was in a similar state to my friend this week: dying of thirst, and drowning in hamburgers.
By about Wednesday, I was able to tell him what I was feeling and thinking without guilt trips, demands, or expectations. It was simply telling him “this is what’s going on with me.” Because the thing is, I’ve learned that you really can’t change another person’s behavior. I’ve tried negotiation on this particular issue repeatedly, and despite both of us being in full and enthusiastic agreement, behavior simply doesn’t change. And trying to manipulate his behavior is not healthy for me. All I can do is be honest about how his behavior affects me, and leave the rest up to him.
But a few things were very helpful in enabling a naturally very, um, emotive person like me to manage my feelings, do what needed to be done, and for the most part, relate in a healthy way to my spouse while in conflict.
- I leaned on my close friends. I had the support, encouragement, and commisseration of several good, authentic friends who let me be real and honest with them. So I didn’t feel all alone, which is the feeling that leads to despair for me.
- I leaned on God. I prayed and read the Bible a bit each day. I didn’t avoid God. I trusted Him to be big enough to handle my anger. And I kept my eyes peeled for messages of encouragement from Him (and found one, too!)
- I managed my own attention. Knowing I couldn’t deal with my anger in a productive way earlier in the week, I focused my attention on other things. My excellent new job. Reading the Harry Potter novels my sister lent me. Taking care of things that needed to be done. I didn’t dwell and simmer, so the anger became more manageable instead of less as time passed.
My last point, and I think it’s fairly important, is that the turning point in my anger was when I was able to restore my trust that my husband was both trying to love me and didn’t intend ill toward me. What made me the most angry was feeling that I was the only one trying. Once I was able to see that wasn’t the case, I could live peaceably in the house again.
Well, I hope you all have a peaceable week with your own spouses.